By Ali Hassnain

I have followed many US presidential debates, but watching the second US presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump was fun, I must say. A keen observer of international affairs can learn a lot from these debates, especially from those who fade into history books after losing. This debate was not particularly of interest for people outside the US. Previous presidential debates revolved around foreign policy, especially the one between Obama and Hillary practically revolved around Pakistan. But I was looking forward to this debate to see how a multi-billionaire Republican nominee spins boasting about harassing women. Is it even possible to spin it?

The answer came a few minutes into the debate. While being apologetic about the comments and calling them “locker room talk”, Trump suddenly tried to bring in ISIS and went on to boast how he would quash them like a fly. Aren’t they two completely different topics?

I am not a fan of Clinton, truth be told she might very well be worse than Trump. As a spectator I could see that Trump’s campaign is stalling. Perhaps it’s too late for the Republican Party now. Everyone expected it to stall after a few months. The fact that it took so long is a surprise and shows how much people want to change things in the US.

Coming back to this particular debate, Trump was being himself and Hillary responded by taking the high road. Had she indulged in petty talk with Trump she had good chance of losing. Trump brought four women that Bill Clinton had alleged or real affairs with at the start of debate. Probably to deflect attention from his “locker room talk”.  Actually it reminded me a lot about our politicians here in Pakistan. He was basically trying to say, ‘Hey! I might be a villain but so is Hillary’s husband!’

Interestingly, during the debate he threatened Hillary with jail over her email scandal. For those who don’t know, due to reasons best known to Hillary, she decided to use a private server instead of the State Department servers. She has been accused of wrongdoing, and yes she released most of the emails, but it’s a shady affair. It sounds more like a case of incompetence of her staffers then her. Trump brought it up and it reminded me of Pakistani politicians trying to dig up dirt on Imran Khan using non-issues. Threatening the other candidate with jail is a first in the US presidential campaign. A new low in US politics.

Trump’s high talk and unrealistic promises seem to have lost their appeal over time. A few weeks back he said if elected he would ask Pentagon to take care of ISIS within a month or something which prompted a US general to ask, “What on earth he thinks we have been doing for 15 years?”

Highlight of the debate was the question on Health Care. Hillary did not distance herself completely from Obama Care and she had a good line of action. She believes it’s better to fix what’s wrong with the bill instead of repealing it altogether and starting from zero. Trump thinks it should be repealed and thr US should go back to pre-Obama Care days. It is a shame the US does not provide universal healthcare to its citizens and they have no such plans in the foreseeable future. Canada, UK, France and Germany are not giant economies like the US but they have universal health care.

Trump and Hillary Clinton both accused each other of supporting the Iraq War.  It appears both of them did. Trump blamed Obama for leaving Iraq abruptly and blamed the withdrawal for the rise of ISIS. Apparently none of them thinks that the US-Iran unholy alliance, local Shia militias and a corrupt puppet government of Nouri al Maliki had anything to do with it. Hillary thinks that reinforcing Pashemarga, a para-military group from semi-autonomous and peaceful Kurdish region in Iraq would be a deciding factor. It is sad to see none of them believe that massive reconciliation is the only hope. If there is one realistic option available, this is the one. I do hope and believe it can be done, but it requires great effort.  Ungoverned countries cannot do that on their own. They need help and massive effort, but with sincerity it can be done.

At the end of the debate, the CNN poll showed 67% believe Hillary won the debate and 33% think Trump won. If Hillary won which looks likely at this point, it would be 8 more years of Obama, if you ask me. I do agree with Trump on this point. I see her as a ruthless women. Last 8 years have brought chaos to the world and her foreign policy scares me.  Iraq, Syria, Libya and Afghanistan suffered under Obama administration and Hillary’s foreign office days. A new world order is due to rise from the ashes of the old; where would the world go? It is hard to predict. Next 8 years are very important because decisions taken would impact many generations.

What her presidency would be like is an interesting topic and a few educated guesses would be appropriate. Fate of Iraq, Syria, Iran and Saudi Arabia are uncertain. If Iran believes giving up nuclear weapons alone would bring them lasting peace at home, they cannot be more wrong. They have exported violence and brainwashed people in other countries. Pigeons always come home and Iran is in a very dangerous situation. Saudi Arabia faces an almost identical crisis, with certain exceptions. Egypt and Morocco would chose a direction sooner or later. Egypt is important. Libya was a province named Tripolitania in the Ottoman Empire. The word Libya comes from the Roman Empire days. Maps drawn on paper are changing. How, when, where and by whom are just semantics. Tunisia is another country that has to choose a direction.

Then there is the China factor. Her Presidency might see China transform into a military power from an economic power. CPEC and One Belt One Road initiative would increase the size of Chinese economy. From Gwadar, they can trade with Africa, and China sees an untapped under-served market in Africa. Affordable technological solutions can bring a revolution in Africa. US media is trying to focus on Far East. The real economic battle would be fought in Africa. Africa is the richest continent as far as resources are concerned. Africa has a population which is not only willing to work, they are desperate for jobs. At the end of Hillary’s presidency, it is possible that Africa with the help of affordable Chinese technology and investment would be a different place altogether.

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